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October 28, 2015


Jardin Partagé du Clos des Blancs Manteaux

by soundlandscapes

MANY PEOPLE VISIT GARDENS to look at them and maybe even smell them but few I suspect go to listen to them. It wasn’t what I had in mind when I left home, but I spent part of a recent Saturday afternoon doing just that – listening to a garden.

Clos des Blancs-Manteaux

I had decided to go to le Marais, a part of Paris I know reasonably well but don’t go to all that often, save for my regular visits to the Musée Carnavalet of course.

I emerged from the Métro station Saint-Paul into the Saturday afternoon bustle of le Marias and spent the next three hours or so walking the streets, dodging the showers, listening and hunting for sounds to add to my Paris Soundscapes Archive.

Towards the end of the afternoon I found myself in an unfamiliar street, Rue des Blancs Manteaux. I’ve since discovered that the street takes its name from a monastery where, in 1258, Louis IX settled beggar monks belonging to the order of the Servants of Mary. The monks were noted for the white habits they wore hence, Rue des Blancs Manteaux.

Walking along the street I discovered the square Charles-Victor-Langlois, once the site of the monastery, a church, l’église Notre-Dame-des-Blancs-Manteaux and a theatre, le théâtre des Blancs-Manteaux.

But it was at N° 21 Rue des Blancs Manteaux that I came upon a complete surprise.

Clos des Blancs-Manteaux

Behind a large wooden door was a passageway leading to a garden, the Jardin Partagé du Clos des Blancs Manteaux.

L’Association des Jardiniers du 4ème (4th arrondissement Gardner’s Association) opened a small garden here in October 2010, which was extended in 2012. Nestling at the bottom of a former schoolyard, the 100 square metre garden is maintained partly by the Gardner’s Association and partly by the Paris City gardeners. The garden is divided into separate plots including vegetable plots based on the theme of ‘urban agriculture’, with peas, tomatoes, herbs, potatoes and maïs amongst other things.

Clos des Blancs-Manteaux

I went to investigate the garden and was immediately struck by how quiet it was. The quietness was enhanced because, with the bustling streets of le Marais just a few steps away, quietness was not what I was expecting.

So unusual is quietness in the heart of the city that I couldn’t resist capturing it. As I began to record it started to rain so I had to scurry off for shelter under a rickety wooden roof covering the compost. It was from there that I listened to and recorded the sounds in the garden.

Sounds of the Jardin Partagé du Clos des Blancs Manteaux:

Clos des Blancs-Manteaux

Listening to the garden was fascinating. The sounds of light rain falling intermittently, dead leaves rolling on the ground, the gentle rustle of the plants swaying in the wind and two ladies walking round the garden talking and passing right in front of me standing amidst the compostage were overlaid with the faint rumble of traffic in the distance, a light aircraft flying overhead, distant birdsong and remarkably, the brief sound of a demonstration drifting on the wind all the way from Place de la Bastille.

In the introduction to her fascinating book, ‘City of Noise – Sound and Nineteenth-Century Paris’, Aimée Boutin quotes John Sanderson who first set foot in Paris in July 1835:

“As for the noise of the streets, I need not attempt to describe it. What idea can ears, used only to the ordinary and human noises, conceive of this unceasing racket … All things of this earth seek, at one time or another, repose – all but the noise of Paris. The waves of the sea are sometimes still, but the chaos of these streets is perpetual from generation to generation; it is the noise that never dies.”

As a professional listener to Paris I have some sympathy with John Sanderson and his first impression of the city. But in the Jardin Partagé du Clos des Blancs Manteaux the sounds of the street, the ‘noise that never dies’ just a few steps beyond the wooden portal, if not in complete repose are at least subdued enough to let the garden speak for itself.

Clos des Blancs-Manteaux

Jardin Partagé du Clos des Blancs Manteaux

21 Rue des Blancs Manteaux, Paris 75004

Open: Saturday and Sunday from 11am

Nearest Métro: Hôtel de Ville or Rambuteau

6 Comments Post a comment
  1. Emily
    Oct 29 2015

    C’est magnifique! Qu’est que vous avez utilisé pour enregistrer ce son?

    • Oct 29 2015

      Merci, Emily. Je suis heureux que vous avez apprécié les sons de ce merveilleux jardin au cœur de la ville.

      Les sons ont été enregistrés dans MS (Mid-Side) stéréo avec un Sound Devices 722 Sound Recorder et un Audio Technica BP4029 MS stéréo micro.

  2. Oct 31 2015

    As a member of the Jardiniers du 4ème, I tend to restrict my visits to the garden to dry days. I didn’t know how much I was missing! Today the sound of rain was replaced by the rustling of autumn leaves. Most of the leaves have fallen from the horse chestnut trees since your visit and today footsteps crunching over dry leaves announced the arrival of each new visitor. I was (over optimistically) planting violas in the shade of the olive tree.

    • Oct 31 2015

      Thank you, Judith.

      I like to think I know most of the hidden nooks and crannies in Paris but this one came as a complete surprise.
      You probably noticed that I didn’t report in detail about the plants in the garden, which is not surprising since I can barely tell a brassica from a buddleia but I thoroughly enjoyed exploring the garden and its magical sounds. It’s a great credit to you and the other members of the Jardiniers du 4ème. Good luck with your violas!
      By the way, I’ve looked at your excellent blog and discovered that you mentioned Yorkshire. I have many memories of that delightful part of the world – I lived there for the best part of twenty years and I still miss it enormously.

      • Nov 1 2015

        Thanks for your message. I can’t claim any credit for the garden at Blanc Manteaux as I’m a recent arrival. Thanks for encouraging me to listen more carefully there.

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  1. Rue des Blancs-Manteaux – A Soundwalk | Soundlandscapes' Blog

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